Rustic is good!

Old Goroku bowls on display at Fukushouji Temple.
A bowl from Goroku
This is a goroku-wan, a bowl said to have first been made in the Goroku area close to Wajima, in the north of the Noto Peninsula.

Its shape is similar to the red lacquered bowl featured in the last blog—http://urushitanteidan2014.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/a-matter-of-taste.html.  But in character it is more like that bowl in its unfinished state.

As noted before I would be happy to see that soup bowl finished much more simply—not just in red lacquer—and completed with a ‘folkcraft’ character, so that it would command a dining table, whatever the surroundings or style of cuisine.

The Goroku bowl has a similar authority, tenor and unpretentious folkcraft air.  Its large size contributes to its character in no uncertain way and the high foot helps to cement its overall style, despite not having the highly appealing rustic air of the unfinished bowl from Ryuji Ikehata’s workshop.

A high foot on ceramic and lacquerware bowls commonly found in Japan make them easier to pick up in one hand, so that they can be raised to the mouth.  Admittedly, with a high foot there is perhaps less need to pick up the bowl.  The elevation provided by such a foot, however, also contributes to the air of offering or prasad as it is known in the Hindu faith—a devotional offering to a deity.  

We could even say, for example, that the way that the Japanese hand over even a business card in the politest way with both hands is all part of an attitude of respect shown for people and things by the Japanese.  By being raised up by a high foot, the food is presented well and in a sense respected.  Is respect expressed and is a devotional offering made?.  How similar and how different are they?.

Well used bowls of the same type, even used to hold true lacquer.  The bowl is big enough for a whole meal.
With western food presentation, it is now common to have a large charger plate onto which a slightly smaller plateful of food is placed.  Doing so spiritually elevates the food and the presentation is more appealing.  I would suggest, however, that it falls short of having the charisma of a devotional offering.

The Goroku bowl is said to be similar to those of the Muromachi era, spanning the period from the very end of the 14th century until the 1570s.  It therefore pre-dates Wajima lacquerware.

The shape and style of the Goroku bowl have become more popular in recent years, so perhaps it will become a must-have item of tableware.  But let’s hope that it remains unpretentious in its demeanour and does not become gentrified.  After all, rustic is good!

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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